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Somerset County Republican Chairman Al Gaburo. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Gaburo stepping down as Somerset GOP chairman

Howes emerges as successor

By David Wildstein, July 02 2020 5:53 pm

Al Gaburo will not seek re-election to a sixth term as Somerset County Republican Chairman.

Timothy Howes, a former Peapack and Gladstone councilman and a politically active lawyer, appears to be emerging as Gaburo’s likely successor.

“I am eternally grateful for your support and more importantly all you have done to make the SCRO vibrant and strong for years to come,” Gaburo said.  “It is critical that we rally behind Frank Bruno, Brian Levine and Brian Gallagher this year and Jack Ciattarelli next year as they represent not only an opportunity to continue our great tradition in Somerset County but a great leap forward in reclaiming our majorities.”

The change in leadership comes seven months after Republicans lost control of county government for the first time since 1965.

Democrats now have a 3-2 majority on the Board of Freeholders, with their last two incumbents, Levine and Gallagher, up this year.

Gaburo said that that Somerset Republicans will hold a virtual reorganization meeting on July 23.

“I will continue to do all I can to ensure these outstanding people are re-elected and in Jack’s case elected Governor,” he said.

Howes filed a letter of intent to seek the post this afternoon.

Gaburo, who runs one of the state’s most influential lobbying firm, has set a filing deadline of July 17 for candidates looking to run for county chairman.

His successor will be just the fifth person to serve as Somerset County GOP Chairman since Dwight Eisenhower’s first term as president.

Luke Gray was the Somerset County Republican boss for more than thirty years until his death in 1984.

After Gray died, the party chairmanship went to Assemblyman Jack Penn (R-Watchung).

In 1989, State Sen. Jack Ewing (R-Peapack) decided to challenge Penn for county chairman.  Penn had openly mulled taking on Ewing in the 1991 GOP primary and the former Abercrombie & Fitch chairman wanted to secure his own re-election.

Penn neat Ewing, but politics in Somerset went through a rough patch.  He staved off a primary challenge from then-Freeholder Peter Biondi by just 1,266 votes in 1991.

Florio, the Montgomery GOP municipal chairman and a former Somerville councilman, emerged as Penn’s successor.  He initially faced former freeholder John Kitchen, a Penn ally who had lost renomination at the 1990 Republican convention to Bridgewater Councilman Fred Howlett, but dropped out before the balloting.

Gaburo is the third Republican county chairman this year to announce his retirement.  Patrick Torpey is not seeking re-election in Hunterdon, and Marcus Karavan was pushed out in Cape May.

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